Once again I am reviewing a use of force by a law enforcement officer where the suspect was allowed to remain in a vehicle, thereby accessing a weapon. I’m not sure how this has become commonplace, even to the point where it is the exceptional when a violator is removed from a vehicle. Perhaps its 21st century policing, bundled with political correctness capped with the hesitation that grips our law enforcement community with fear of retribution for doing your job. Body cameras, cell phone videos, social media where your use of force is judged by keyboard warriors who don’t know what the statute even says, much less where to look it up.
I graduated from police academy in 1999, 16 years ago. In my mind, that doesn’t seem that long ago and you would think that tactics haven’t changed drastically in that time period. I wore a numerical pager on my uniform epaulet, had a corded mobile phone in my patrol bag, a Glock 22 with 3 magazines, a digital camera with removable SD card, and a VCR in the trunk of my 1996 Crown Victoria that would record an 8 hour video on VHS. However, if I think back to 1999 and wonder what officers who started 16 years earlier (1984) would say about my generation of police officers, maybe they have. In 1984 there were no cell phones, no pagers, and no digital cameras. Everyone carried a wheel gun, and no one wore a vest. In 1984, you could actually shoot a fleeing felon as Tennessee v. Garner did not rule until 1985.
Applying that train of thought to today and what a street cop in 2015 must deal with seems light years apart. With all the advancements in technology that have aided law enforcement officers, i.e., weapon lights, body armor, high capacity automatic handguns, computerized criminal information etc, the sword swings both ways. That which can help us can also hurt us. So how do we deal with that?
I was taught to remove violators from vehicles while conducting traffic investigations. Why? Safety. I understand the common method now of leaving the violator in the vehicle, and the reasoning, however I still disagree with that logic. One on one, out of the car. The odds are in your favor every time. He can’t drive off and drag you with him if he is standing in the ditch. Can he fight you? Sure. When can’t a suspect fight with you? Put them on your terms, complete your investigation and check back in service. Not wanting to offend someone will never outweigh officer safety. If someone is offended, there are channels they can go through for that. It’s better than a hospital bed or a coffin.
Josh Crosby has served in law enforcement 16 years as a patrol officer, narcotics investigator, and criminal detective as well as a defensive tactics and use of force instructor. He specializes in personal protection and emergency operations. Josh has trained police officers in four countries and maintains that well-trained officers are safe officers.